Editor's note: Beginning today, Fermilab Today
will broaden it's Monday Safety Tip section to include the topics of
environment, health and cyber security. We have marked this change by
renaming the section ES&H Tips of the Week. We will also highlight
the authors by including their bylines at the bottom of each article.
Preventing shoulder injuries
The figures above demonstrate exercises to strengthen our shoulders correctly.
In reviewing cases, I’ve noted that many people get shoulder injuries on and off the job.
One injury pattern, commonly called a bone spur’s impact, is easy to lessen or even prevent with a simple exercise.
We all perform lifting tasks which strengthen our muscles that pull
the shoulder ball joint upward. Typically very little time is spent
strengthening the muscles that pull downward.
We are our own worst enemy in this tug of war for shoulder balance.
As we age, this lack of exercise of the opposing muscle group causes
the tendon in the shoulder blade to creep upward and catch on the
naturally growing stalactite-like bone spur just above the shoulder
blade. This causes pain and often a loss of arm mobility.
Though there are surgical approaches to the problem like shaving off
the stalactite or sawing off the end of the collar bone, most people
like the non-surgical approach to treating and preventing this
The trick is to get the muscles at the bottom of the shoulder joint
to pull harder and maintain a safe gap between the shoulder ball joint
and the bone spur. One useful exercise is the “row”, lifting the
weights forward and back with arms held close to the body.
Another good exercise is the lat pull down, an exercise performed
using either a weight machine pulling down from an overhead position
and towards the chest or using a rubber material tied to a fixed object.
I’ve seen these exercises reduce pain in people slated for shoulder surgery and allow them to return to lifting activities.
So if you want to prevent some trouble when you reach overhead or
lift, you may wish to try these exercises. Light weights or resistance
with high repetitions is a good way to begin strengthening without
injury when working with these muscles.
If you need more information or a demonstration, stop by the Medical Office.
-- Brian Svazas, M.D.